Hughes' Consistency is Key to Bills 'D'

Jerry Hughes has been Buffalo's most consistent player through the first six weeks of the season. Hughes has been disruptive against the pass and run all season and the best is yet to come for the 26 year old.

No one is playing more consistently on Buffalo’s defense than Jerry Hughes. Buffalo’s defensive end has 23 tackles, four sacks, 12 stops and a forced fumble through six weeks of the 2014 season. Hughes’ sack total is tied for fifth among all defensive lineman and his 12 stops are tied for sixth among all 4-3 defensive ends per Pro Football Focus (Subscription Required).

Hughes’ success as a pass rusher is no surprise. Last year, Hughes had his breakout season as an OLB in Buffalo’s defense. Hughes had 10 sacks on the season and caused plenty of disruptions for opposing quarterbacks. PFF credited Hughes with 39 quarterback hurries and nine quarterback hits in addition to his sacks. In terms of pass rush productivity, Hughes was rated as the best 3-4 OLB in the league last year.

When Jim Schwartz became Buffalo’s defensive coordinator in the offseason, many worried what it would mean for Hughes. In Schwartz’s defense, Hughes would play defensive end. While Hughes is a bit undersized compared to many ends, his measurables were similar to Cliff Avril’s. Avril had plenty of success under Schwartz and Hughes is no different. Besides his four sacks, Hughes has been credited with 13 quarterback hurries and five quarterback hits. Currently, Hughes is rated sixth at PFF in terms of pass rush productivity among all 4-3 defensive ends. He looks well on his way to back-to-back double digit sack seasons.

The biggest area of improvement for Hughes has been in run defense. There was no questioning Hughes as a pass rusher, but how would he fare against the run? Hughes struggled in run support as a defensive end with the Colts from 2010-12. He did well with Buffalo in 2013, but that was at outside linebacker.  This season, Hughes has certainly looked the part as a run stopper. Hughes has one missed tackle on the season and has done a good job of stopping backs from running outside of the tackles. He has played a significant role on a run defense that is giving up 67.5 yards per game, good for first in the NFL.

There’s no question that Hughes has become a complete player with the Buffalo Bills. The defensive end has played extremely well on Buffalo’s right side, faring well against opposing team’s left tackles. Hughes has been a terrific addition in his 22 games with the Bills and his consistent play is one reason why the Bills are sitting at 3-3.

The strong play by Hughes is coming at the perfect time for the defensive end. Following the 2014 season, Hughes will be an unrestricted free agent. Whether it be in Buffalo, or another NFL franchise, Hughes is destined to cash-in. Buffalo should make Hughes their top priority as the best is yet to come for the 26 year old defensive end.

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